Haggle! Get BT, Sky or Virgin Media for less
Watching new customers nab vouchers worth hundreds of pounds, or half-price broadband for a year can be a little galling if you've been paying full whack for the same thing for years.
But loyal customers can also bag a bargain.
Big providers like Sky, BT and Virgin Media hate losing customers to rivals and will often go a long way to preserve your valuable custom.
It's just a question of haggling the price down and, in this guide, we show you how.
If haggling doesn't get the result you want, cancelling and signing up as a new customer, either with your current ISP or elsewhere, is also an option: skip down the page here for more on what's available.
The rewards for haggling
Most of us wouldn't be able to recall the last occasion on which we partook in the monetary dance that is haggling, although the rewards can be great.
Some customers have reported savings of over £150 a year.
Many people also nab, to name just a few:
- Free services such as premium movie channels.
- Free HD set top boxes.
- Free repair of faulty set top boxes that are out of warranty.
- Free installation of new services.
- Better broadband. For example, double the download allowance for free.
Tempted? Thought so.
How to negotiate
There are five basic ways to approach the call to customer services.
1. Cut out services, cut costs
At the moment my package is XYZ and costs £X amount each month. I don't really watch channels AB and C any more. Can you remove them to make my package better suit my needs?"
This approach is pretty straightforward: if you're paying for something you're not using or could do without, get rid of it and pay less.
Ideal candidates for ditching are premium movie or sports channels, multi-room subscriptions and HD offers.
Problems can arise if you're attempting to knock down the price within the first year of your contract, especially if you received a special price or special offer when signing up, but even then it's not impossible.
It's also worth noting that once you've got rid of a number of premium services it becomes more likely that Freeview will offer the same or almost the same services as pay TV much more cheaply.
2. Add in services, cut costs
I have my broadband with you but my phone line with BT. If I paid line rental to you how much would I pay overall?"
Less obviously, taking a number of services from one provider could mean a lower overall price.
Take care to check the details before signing up. Moving home phone provider, for example, may not be worthwhile if you end up paying for more calls because you get fewer inclusive minutes as part of the contract.
If you go this route, it's worth taking a look at specific existing customer upgrade offers.
For example, people who already have Sky TV can sign up online to one of the following "upgrade" offers when they take broadband or fibre broadband.
|Offer||You get||Additional price|
|Free for 12 months
+ £50 M&S voucher
|Broadband Unlimited||Free for 12 months,
then £7.50 a month
|Free for 6 months||Fibre Unlimited||Free for 6 months,
then £20 a month
If you were thinking about taking another service it might also make sense to do it through an upgrade offer, or haggle, rather than just adding it, when the standard price is likely to apply.
Here are just three of the current upgrade offers:
|Offer||You get||Additional price|
|Free Multiscreen box
+ free standard setup
|Sky Multiscreen||£11.25 a month||Visit Sky|
|Two month free trial of Sky Go Extra||Free trial (NB this service is free if you have Sky Multiscreen)||Free for 2 months,
These deals do change and there are others available, so if you're a Sky customer keep an eye on Sky's existing customer offers page here for more.
3. Offer to pay upfront
Similarly, many providers allow customers to pay upfront for line rental, offering what can be considerable savings.
If yours does, you're paying full price, and you don't mind getting tied in for a year, you can save. Find out more here.
4. The guilt trip
I've seen a deal for new customers offering XYZ, and there's a deal with a rival provider offering ZYX which is very similar. I've been a loyal customer for X years now and would like to stay with you. Could you offer me something along those lines?"
Turns out, TV, broadband and phone providers get jealous.
Consider the following scenario:
A family of four with three Sky boxes - one HD+ box in living room and two non-recording HD boxes in bedrooms - want to upgrade both the bedroom boxes to HD+. They call Sky, who say it'll cost £400.
The family phone Virgin Media who offer to install V+ HD in all rooms for £100. So they ring back Sky and tell them about Virgin. Surprise surprise: Sky reduce their first offer from £400 to just £60.
It's a bit of a ridiculous malarkey to go through, but this kind of strategy really can work.
5. The cancellation threat
I'd like to cancel my subscription as I'm finding that I can't really afford to keep it going. I'll probably replace it with a Freeview HD box."
Asking for new services is one thing, but the biggest bargaining chip customers have, and the one most often used in negotiations, is cancelling altogether.
Customer service staff are usually only authorised to "give away" a certain amount in terms of extras on top of the current deal held by an existing customer.
If what they're offering doesn't float your boat then you'll be better off being passed to "customer retentions", the corporate name for "cancellations".
The guys and girls in cancellations can potentially give you a much better deal as their job is entirely focused around - you've guessed it - keeping hold of customers who want to cancel.
However, it often seems that how successful you are can depend on who you speak to, what time of day it is (because each member of retentions staff is given a daily discount budget) and perhaps even what mood they may be in.
The problem: deal or no deal?
Once you've outlined your situation the agent may well offer you a reduced monthly rate, free channel package, broadband upgrade or similar deal.
A popular gambit at Sky seems to be to offer to reduce the monthly cost of your bundle or a particular package by half for six months.
At this point the whole scenario can get a bit Deal or no Deal.
It's up to you to decide whether the offer on the table is one you are happy with or whether to gamble, snub the offer and try to squeeze a little more value out of the adviser on the other end of the phone.
In one case we've seen, a Sky+ HD customer rang the call centre to explain that they were finding their subscription to be a struggle financially and would therefore like to remove the HD and movie package from the monthly bill.
"No problem," the agent said. "That's been cancelled for you."
But, hanging up, the customer felt hard done by: she'd heard reports of six month half price deals being dished out left, right and centre.
Five minutes later, she called back to say she'd decided to cancel the whole package. Right on cue she was offered six months subscription at half price, including the HD and movie packages that she'd cancelled on the previous call.
Sky, with their many bundle options, are the best known for offering deals to entice customers to stay, or to keep all the packages they've been taking.
That doesn't mean, however, that other TV, broadband and phone providers aren't all doing the same thing.
Virgin Media also have a big retentions department, TalkTalk will sometimes offer to match prices if you're looking at cheaper providers or packages, and even smaller providers like Plusnet have been known to dangle the odd carrot in front of an equivocal customer's nose.
No deal: what next?
Finally, sometimes the best way to save money is to stop threatening and actually cancel.
The bonus is that new customers have great offers handed to them on a plate rather than having to earn them through hard fought negotiation.
Am I a new customer?
Be careful, though. Providers are no fools and they have rules on what constitutes a "new" customer designed to stop "cancel and re-sign" deal grabbers.
With Virgin Media and Sky, for example, you need to have not been with them for at least a year to be eligible for the deals offered to new customer: there's more detail on these rules in our full guide.
The best special offers
If you don't qualify as new again, or your old provider called your bluff, there's nothing wrong with considering another provider.
They're all keen for your business, so most will have good offers that make them cheaper for the first year, or give you access to premium services for less.
Here are the current special offers for the big providers:
|Save up £228 in the first 12 months||Sign up for one of Virgin Media's pre-made bundles here|
|Save up to £54 on Virgin TV||Sign up for Virgin Media TV with a Virgin phone line here|
|Free installation worth £49.95||Sign up for Virgin Media TV, broadband and phone for this offer here|
|25% off TV for 12 months + £75 bill credit
ends 25 Jun 2015
|Sign up online to a Sky TV bundle for this offer here|
|6 months half price Fibre Unlimited
ends 25 Jun 2015
|Sign up to Sky Fibre Unlimited as an existing Sky customer for this offer here|
|Free phone line installation worth £130||Free line installation or reconnection when you take a BT broadband package. Sign up for BT broadband and phone to get this offer here|
You can also check out our guide to comparing BT, Sky and Virgin Media TV for help.
Budget providers also have a lot of offers for new customers, especially price cuts covering the first few months to a year of service. See those deals, plus more information on providers, in our guide to the cheapest providers here.
You can also check out the latest offers from all the providers in the search tool below:
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